Thirteen. It’s a number perhaps most unlucky for kids of that age. Peer pressure, puberty, pimples, and…[insert scary music]…junior high! But it’s also the name of Jason Robert Brown’s latest musical that had a rare Broadway show with an all-youth cast and is now taking to the youth theatre world, one of the earliest incarnations being Valley Youth Theatre’s production in Phoenix where Jason Robert Brown attended on opening night.

His show revolves around Evan, who is excited to be preparing for his Bar Mitzvah in exciting New York City. Well, until his parents get divorced and he ends up moving to Appleton, Indiana, which is just south of Dullsville. It’s tough quickly making new friends at a new school. Especially when that’s Dan Quayle Junior High. But Evan is a clever and resourceful kid who just might be able to get all the popular kids to his Bar Mitzvah in October. Unfortunately, to do so, he may have to lose his only real friends that he’s made in The Lamest Place in the World.

Josh Hedeby is Evan, and he does Evan well as the ever-planning “Brain” focused on the goal no matter how many snags his plans hit. The sweet and big-voiced Clare Emmert is his counterpart as Patrice, a bit of a loner who thinks The Lamest Place in the World might have gotten a little bit better with the new kid in town, although she’s gonna have some serious doubts about that hunch as Evan keeps screwing up. As handicapped Archie, Maxx Carlisle-King is a riot with his timing and humor, completing the close trio of friends, and doing so with very politically incorrect but very funny humor as he uses his handicap, a little bit of praying, and a lot of stalking to try to French kiss popular cheerleader Kendra.

Which leads us to the popular kids in school. Abbie Maynard delivers a nice performance as pretty and popular Kendra, the girl with her own song named after her, and the girl that has left every boy from nerdy Archie to star quarterback Brett tongue-whipped as they pine for their first French kiss. Which will never happen if Kendra’s non-nice “friend” Lucy has anything to say about it, as Lucy wants quarterback Brett for herself. The highly talented Sascha Peralta-Ramos, who took part in workshopping 13, is perfectly conniving and catty as Lucy while also knocking out the big numbers including her Good Girl number as she tries to talk Kendra out of giving the tongue, and as she leads the girls into gossip in the great It Can’t Be True.

Adam Moffitt leads the popular boys as tongue-whipped Brett who ends up getting tongue (in a fashion) in the group’s hilarious movie scene. Devin J. Sanders and Bransen Gates shine as Brett’s best friends who are a hoot in Hey Kendra and with Richie (E.J. Dohring) and Simon (Jeffrey Mortensen) in Bad Bad News. While the cast as a whole are a talented and energetic group who enliven the big numbers with great comedy, personality, singing, and dancing.

Director Bobb Cooper’s production is both entertaining and visually impressive, assisted by Katie Casey’s choreography that adds much to the humor and energy of the show, terrific lighting (Michael Eddy) and sets (Dori Brown), and Mark Fearey’s always-magnificent musical direction and orchestra that nails Brown’s enjoyable new score that is sure to be hitting the halls of many youth theatres for years to come.

Performed January 29 - February 13, 2010

Rob Hopper

Executive Director
National Youth Arts

~ Cast ~
Ensemble: Colin Bird
Ensemble: BeBe Bianco
Ensemble: Rachel Brown
Archie: Maxx Carlisle-King
Ensemble: Haley Cohn
Richie: E.J. Dohring
Patrice: Clare Emmert
Eddie: Bransen Gates
Evan: Josh Hedeby
Ensemble/Rabbi: Alexander Khan
Ensemble: Lexi Lewis
Kendra: Abbie Maynard
Brett: Adam Moffitt
Simon: Jeffrey Mortensen
Ensemble: Elysha Nemeth
Ensemble: Alec Nienhauser
Lucy: Sascha Peralta-Ramos
Ensemble: Tanner Perry
Ensemble: Richard S. Pomraning II
Malcolm: Devin J. Sanders
Charlotte: Tasha Spear
Ensemble: Bryan Tanquary
Cassie: Ashalee Torrey
Molly: Taylor Voth
Ensemble: Katie Wilkinson
Ensemble: Libby Willis

Producing/Artistic Director: Bobb Cooper
Musical Director/Conductor: Mark Fearey
Director: Bobb Cooper
Costume Designer: Karol Cooper
Production Stage Manager: Todd M. Tillett
Choreographer: Katie Casey
Lighting Designer: Michael Eddy
Sound Designer: Nicholas Dressler
Scenic Designer: Dori Brown


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